The most notable thing that happened at the March 1 council meeting might have been something that didn’t happen.
Councillors headed off an attempt by Coun. Jeff Fountain to have three resolutions regarding China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority and Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton’s stance regarding China put to a vote when Coun. Andre Proulx motioned to table them during the approval of the agenda, which a majority of his fellow councillors supported.
The first of the three resolutions deleted from Monday night’s agenda was to recognize and condemn human rights violations, including cultural genocide, against minorities and religious groups by the Chinese government. The second called for council to lobby Ashton to adopt a more critical position regarding China and the third was to condemn Ashton for her soft stance on China as well as travelling to Greece twice during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fact that the resolutions were struck from the agenda without any discussion – motions to table are not subject to debate – likely did not come as a surprise to Fountain.
In a Feb. 24 Facebook live video regarding his call for Ashton to resign and an interview on the subject he did with Rebel News, as well as subsequent coverage by the Thompson Citizen, Fountain said he’d be surprised if all of his resolutions made it to a vote.
“I’ll be happy if one makes it,” he said.
Fountain also defended discussing his call for Ashton’s resignation with Rebel News, saying they were the only media organization that responded after he got in touch following a previous Facebook video in which he said he was going to ask for the MP’s resignation during a council meeting, which he has not yet done.
“They were the ones who approached me, the only ones who approached me,” he said. “I feel like it was an important enough issue that it warranted discussion with whoever would take it.”
He also said that Ashton’s office bashed Rebel News as a far-right organization because they had no other defence against his criticism of the MP, who has represented the riding since 2008 and has yet to step down in response to Fountain’s or anyone else’s requests to do so.
“I’m aware of Rebel’s reputation as being out there a little,” Fountain said. “It’s certainly a different perspective and I would say for the vast majority of [Rebel’s programming], it’s true. It’s not conspiracy theory at all. It’s just approaching issues in Canada from a different lens and that lens is often libertarian, often conservative. I see that it’s giving voice to a group of people that don’t have a voice. Rebel Media has 1.4 million followers in a country of 30-some million people. That’s a pretty huge reach and I would say most of those people are in Western Canada. How dare we say that that is not an audience worthy of our time as politicians? That’s disgusting.”
The councillor also reiterated some of this reasons for calling on Ashton to step down in his Feb. 24 video.
“She had the opportunity this week in the House of Commons to vote and condemn China for their treatment of people, not just Uyghur Muslims – Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, anyone who really stands up against the state in terms of democracy,” Fountain said, referencing a vote that every MP who voted supported, though Ashton was one of dozens who abstained. “I don’t appreciate my MP’s representation on that matter but we’ve also talked about her stance on resource extraction. She’s not very much for it. She supports the Leap Manifesto which is very much against damaging resource extraction activities which mining falls under. It’s very hard to live in a mining community when you are against mining. It’s hard to represent a mining community when you are against mining.”
The MP was also called out for hypocrisy when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She was so strong in her opinions regarding lockdowns for Keeyask and shutting down Vale due to COVID,” said Fountain. “I think that really puts her in a bad position.”
Fountain said he received a lot of support from across Canada after his interview with Rebel News and that he belives there is quiet support for his position within Thompson as well, though he feels some may not be willing to voice those opinions aloud.
”It is clear to me after reaching out to a number of people that, given how entrenched that NDP group is in Thompson, that so many people are afraid to speak out in support but overwhelming support exists,” said Fountain.
The only goal of the resignation call, Fountain said is “at the end of the day she either resigns or she changes her tune on a certain few things.”
It definitely isn’t part of any larger political ambition on his part, he said.
“This is not a political platform here for me to springboard off. I’m not going anywhere.I’m not running federally. I’m not running provincially. As a matter of fact, I really feel as though this might be my last term on council. I’m absolutely humbled and honoured by the opportunity to represent you but the toll it’s taken on me and my mental health over the past two-and-a-half years has been enough to really make me question whether I should do it again and right now I’m feeling like it’s not going to happen.”
Fountain said he will continue to use his voice to ask for what he thinks is right.
“I’ve decided that I’m going to be vocal and when it comes to how my MP represents me and represents our region, very vocal, and expect that she vote in our best interest and I don’t feel like she did.”